As part of their "Toxic Waters" series, the New York Times takes a long, scary look at the chemicals in our drinking water and the Southern California residents who don't think they're a big deal. The Safe Drinking Water Act regulates 91 contaminants, but even though scientists have "identified hundreds [of chemicals] associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water," none have been added to the Act since 2000. So the laws don't reflect the science, and the paper reports on homeowners in Silver Lake and Maywood who are at odds with the scientists and politicians who want to make changes--they figure if their water complies with the law, why risk rate hikes to build new reservoirs or treatment systems? That despite Los Angeles's water rates being relatively low for California.
If the Ivanhoe Reservoir's bird balls are "similar to the kind McDonald’s uses for its playground pits," why don't they come in more colors? They've covered the reservoir since 2008 to prevent the sun from hitting the water, which can turn contaminants and chemicals into cancer-causing bromates (which are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, but only tested for when water leaves a treatment plant, before it gets to the reservoir). The paper says that after the balls went out, "Angry residents began attacking the city’s regulators on blogs and leaving profane phone messages," and quote local Laurie Pepper, who says, "they ruined the reservoir by putting black pimples all over it."
In Maywood, "tap water is often brown and tastes bitter...Laboratory tests show Maywood’s tap water has contained toxic levels of mercury, lead, manganese and other chemicals that have been associated with liver and kidney damage, neurological diseases or cancer." (Check out the gross evidence in the slideshow.) Some residents have complained, but others campaigned against a city council member who tried to do something about it, calling him a "liar and corrupt politician" in a leaflet.
And of course industry is also fighting regulation. A scientist featured in the article "estimates that arsenic poses more of a risk to Los Angeles residents than any other contaminant in drinking water," but a Big Mulch and Soil rep says of arsenic regulation, "This could have a chilling effect on gardening."
· That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy [NYT]
· Balls Out: Invahoe Reservoir Gets Stocked, Bird Confusion Likely Coming [Curbed LA]